Nora Pouillon on the first organic restaurant in the country and retirement

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One of the organic industry’s most iconic pioneers is retiring from the limelight. Nora Pouillon, founder of her namesake Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC, which became the country’s first certified organic restaurant in 1999, has announced her retirement.

While his restaurant was only certified organic in 1999, it opened twenty years earlier and from the start Pouillon was determined to have only the best, freshest and healthiest ingredients, many of them came from the then booming organic industry. No wonder Pouillon has seen its share of organic developments.

The democratization of organic

“The biggest change is that it’s become a lot more common,” Pouillon says. “It’s much easier to get organic ingredients. “

It’s a chance for Pouillon, who had to do everything internally and manage more than 20 suppliers in order to keep his restaurant 100% organic.

“I had to buy whole animals, and the whole animal is 1,000 pounds of beef, cut up, which gives you about 700 pounds of ground meat and stew meat, and very little steak,” says -she.

After serving up ground beef in as many interesting ways as she could imagine, she finally opened a second, less upscale restaurant to use the hundreds of pounds of ground beef it took to get a few steaks.

Of course, incorporating organic has also helped in this regard.

“Now I have no more problems, because they can sell the ground beef to schools and hospitals,” explains Pouillon. This, she notes, was unthinkable in her early days, as schools and hospitals wouldn’t have dreamed of spending so much on their food.

This slow democratization of organic is something Pouillon has witnessed during his time in the organic industry, especially when it comes to one-on-one dinners.

“Consumers are better informed and educated about the food they eat,” she says. “They want to know where it comes from and how it rises, and what we do with it, whereas before nobody asked questions. And I think that puts pressure on producers, farmers, and businesses to provide the consumer with healthier options. “

It’s all about balance

Nora Pouillon says she originally opened her restaurant because people were consuming the wrong things – empty calories, the wrong types of fat, too much processed food and too much sugar. Instead, she wanted to offer “healthy, certified organic food.”

Now that the organic industry produces everything from chips to candy, however, organic doesn’t always seem to mean healthy; Pouillon notes that this problem is easily avoided thanks to the balance.

“You can’t eat a pound of organic chocolate, it’s not healthy, or sixteen pounds of steak,” she says. “The thing is balance, diversity, you have a little piece of protein, 4-6 ounces. I always give in my restaurant at least three vegetables: two fresh vegetables and a carbohydrate. So it can be good. brown basmati rice or mashed parsnips or mashed potatoes, but then there’s broccoli, kale, carrots, or whatever else. “

From organic authority files

Finding this balance in gastronomy is a unique proposition and is part of Pouillon’s success.

The future of Nora Pouillon’s eponymous restaurant

Who could take the lead of Nora if not Nora? This is the question Pouillon is always trying to find the answer to.

“The favorite would of course be to find someone who has my mindset,” she says. “Someone with money and someone who wants to make healthy food.”

These two characteristics must go hand in hand, she notes; Organic food is still an industry that requires a lot of money for very little profit, especially, she says, given the popularity of the small plate trend.

“People are now willing to pay more for food, they understand that organic food is more expensive, but the current trend is for the younger generation to spend more money on drinks and small plates,” she said. .

For Pouillon, running the restaurant is clearly a labor of love.

“None of my chefs in my 37 years as a restaurateur – probably 20-25 different chefs – none of them want to do it, because they realize how much work it is,” she says. .

But maybe the main reason Pouillon is giving herself around a year to find a replacement is that she wants the person she chooses to continue running the restaurant the way she did, keep using suppliers with them. which she maintains relationships for years.

“It can take years to find the right person who is as passionate about organic and healthy food as I am, but I have so much faith in today’s enthusiastic generation of chefs and restaurateurs,” she says.

As for Pouillon, she plans to embark on consulting to help other restaurateurs and restaurateurs adopt the organic lifestyle.

“At this point in my life, I want to be a leader and an inspiration to share my vision,” she says. She hopes to respond to the many people who have asked her over the years to share her wisdom and advice, to make organic food more accessible to all diners.

She also plans to write a second book, because her 2015 memoir, “My Biological Life: How a Pioneering Chef Changed the Way We Eat Today” did not include more than 40 recipes she had hoped to feature. .

“I have four children and five grandchildren,” she said, “so I think I’ll be very busy.”

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Image maintenance of the restaurant Nora


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